Not being able to hang out at our favorite bars for the foreseeable future has inspired many to take the time to step up their at-home cocktail game, whether it’s perfecting their shaking technique or batching a bottle of ice-cold Martinis for a proper 5 o’clock cocktail hour. But as warm and sunny spring days offer a sneak peek of summer, many of us are longing for a drink that’s emblematic of drinking outside, even if we’re drinking it inside. Enter the Paloma.
This tequila-based long drink rivals the Margarita in popularity, and shares an adaptable template of agave spirit, lime juice and a citrus accent, but rather than triple sec, the Paloma gets a fizzy, bittersweet kick from grapefruit soda, or a combination of grapefruit juice and soda water. As the popularity of the Paloma has increased, so has the quality of ingredients and mixers used to make it, including the grapefruit soda that gives the drink its distinctive pop.
To prove how easy it is to put one’s own personal stamp on the drink, we asked five of our Bartender in Residence alumni to reconsider the Paloma using Fever-Tree’s newly released Sparkling Pink Grapefruit soda. “What I love about Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit soda is the beautiful pink color—it looks like I sliced a big grapefruit in half,” says Fanny Chu, head bartender at the Brooklyn bar Donna. “The first sip tastes like an effervescent juicy grapefruit and it has the perfect balance of bitterness [and] sweetness.” Fittingly, the soda features handpicked pink Florida grapefruits sweetened with naturally sourced sugar and fruit sugars, providing a balanced, bubbly base to complement spirits across the spectrum.
The following drinks all take inspiration from the Paloma, and maintain the essential components of the bubbly, bittersweet and slightly savory original, but reimagine it with gin or rum, pantry staples like sugar, salt and honey, mint, fresh citrus, melon and the occasional chile pepper. All of these modifications still hew to the uncomplicated nature of the drink while showcasing its versatility.
Fanny Chu’s Hemingway Hi Ball riffs on the key components of a Hemingway Daiquiri, first created in honor of the celebrated American author at Havana’s El Floridita in the 1930s. Chu reflects on the rough times we’re all going through now and considers the chronicles of the challenges the often-troubled writer experienced in his own lifetime. The drink starts with a small-batch Panamanian white rum, which Chu likes for its “banana-y” notes and swaps out the standard dose of maraschino liqueur for a splash of rich Luxardo cherry syrup, which helps balance the sour component from the lime. And the standard grapefruit juice is replaced with a full three ounces of Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit soda, resulting in an elevated, bittersweet long drink.
Rum is also the base spirit in Demi Natoli’s Sitting Pretty, a can’t-wait-until-summer tropical highball that enhances the burst of citrus from Fever-Tree’s Sparkling Pink Grapefruit soda with fresh lime, mint and coconut. Natoli, the bar manager of Miss Bessie’s at the Graduate Hotel in Nashville, was inspired to combine a Mojito with a Paloma by way of a Saoco, a Cuban cocktail made with local rum, lime, ice, sugar and coconut water. “My grandparents in Florida have giant coconut trees behind their house,” recalls Natoli. “When we would get together for Sunday dinner, they often brought fresh coconuts and we would pour ingredients right into the coconuts and enjoy by the pool.
Whether it’s through juice, soda or a liqueur, Grand Army bartender Jon Mullen is drawn to incorporating grapefruit into his cocktail creations. “Beyond the awesome pink color, I’m psyched to have a mixer that brings these familiar flavors while staying true to the bittersweet qualities of grapefruit,” says Mullen, of the new Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit soda. His Shady Grove imagines an aperitivo twist on the Paloma with a brief layover in France—what he dubs a “Palomaperitivo.” He achieves this by mixing together silky bianco vermouth with Calvados and the bitter French gentian liqueur Suze, though he assures home bartenders that if they don’t have Calvados on hand they can sub in clear spirit with fruity or vegetal qualities such as tequila or gin, and swap in dry vermouth if you can’t find a bottle of bianco vermouth.
“Grapefruit is one of my absolute favorite flavors, and I love how it pairs effortlessly with Bimini Gin,” says Shannon Tebay, head bartender at Death & Co. in New York. Tebay’s bitter and spicy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang allows gin and Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit to do the heavy lifting. Bimini gin, made at Round Turn Distilling in Biddeford, Maine, uses fresh grapefruit peel in its botanical blend, which Tebay notes “layers beautifully” with the juicy brightness of the grapefruit soda. An edgy hit of bitter finish shines through, courtesy of Campari, along with a bit of heat from a spicy ancho chile liqueur that’s tamed with the floral sweetness from an easy-to-make-at-home honey syrup. “Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit is so refreshing and complex, yet balanced all on its own, that using it in cocktails is easy,” says Tebay.
Drawn to the pure grapefruit flavor and bright carbonation of Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit, New Orleans bartender Alex Anderson was inspired to add a homemade, fragrant honeydew melon syrup to her Paloma variation, which she calls For the Good Times. “I immediately thought a light melon flavor would be nice, and a citrus-forward vermouth could make a well-rounded Paloma,” she says. She offsets the sweetness of the melon syrup with a bit of heat by adding a sliced serrano pepper to the cocktail shaker to mix and mingle with tequila, vermouth and lime, resulting in a sweet and slightly vegetal highball with a kick. “The Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit soda is perfect for Palomas,” says Anderson. “I usually like a Paloma with fresh grapefruit juice, but I miss the pop of a soda and this combines the natural grapefruit flavor with the carbonation that I desire.”